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Wednesday 20.09.2017 | Name days: Marianna, Ginters, Guntra

Programme: Latvian municipalities spend thousands on self-promotion

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Аuthor: Ieva Čīka/LETAApproximately 250 000 LVL on weekly editions of municipal newspapers – this is the funding planned by Jelgava City Council. Other municipalities are no less ambitious in this regard as well.

De Facto programme’s compiled data on nine of the largest Latvian municipalities suggests different costs on newspaper publishing. Ventspils and Rezekne City Councils are the only ones that do not reveal this information.

Procurement results published on the homepage of the Procurement Monitoring Bureau show that Rēzeknes Vēstis (Rezekne News) layout and printing costs 6 428 LVL. While Jelgava’s Herald costs the municipality five times more (232 494 LVL) than Jūrmalas pašvaldības informācijas biļetens (Jurmala’s municipal newsletter) – 45 000 LVL. “What we do is right”, – Jelgava City Council Chairman Andris Ravins (Union of Greens and Farmers) explains the large expenses.

What raises concerns is the fact that, similar to other municipal expenses, Jelgava’s Herald is registered as a mass media instrument. What it lacks is analytical judgement and critical evaluation of the council’s work. Especially during the pre-election campaign. Chief Editor of Zemgale News Edgars Kupcs notes that “it is clearly stated there that the ruling parties are the best. We can compare with Belarus or some other country. There is no other opinion! The only thing left for the voter is to vote”.

Because of high expenses, Jelgava City Council’s total allotted funding for different information campaigns in different media (257 494 LVL) exceeds that of Riga (90 000 LVL). It should be added that Riga City Council officials are present in different municipal companies, that can pay for air time – radio, television, etc.

There is an odd situation in Rezekne as well. There the team of De Facto had to put up a real “verbal fight” in order to at least learn the budget plan of the social relations department for 2013. The attempt of De Facto to have a meeting with Rezekne Mayor Aleksandr Bartasevics’ (Harmony Centre) had turned into an impossible task. Bartasevics’ press representative claimed that the City Council Chairman is not allowed to speak to the media, saying that this is prohibited by the Pre-election Campaign Law. She had also threatened to call the municipal police to make the journalists leave.

The team had asked to mention a specific section of the law that prohibits the holding of the interview. Instead, the team was given an officially issued letter. It stated that the Mayor is far too busy to meet with the journalists.

It should be mentioned that Bartasevics gives interviews to Radio SWH+ every month. However, the costs of these interviews are being kept secret. Before the intervention of De Facto, Bartasevics had talked on the Hiti Rossii radio station. The City Council buys time on television as well. Expenses are not being revealed for this as well. Notable events are being selected in a way to show every representative of the ruling government in the best possible light.

Social policy centre Providus researcher Iveta Kazoka explains: “if a city has had some specific type of social communication method for its residents – such as a weekly issued newspaper, and then, suddenly, there are pre-election leaflets, letters of congratulations, large and expensive monitors that depict the city’s photos and notable events, the Corruption Prevention and Combating Bureau has all the reasons to believe this is not being done for nothing”.


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